Sources: Suns, Booker closing in on max deal

Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns are progressing toward finalizing a five-year, $158 million maximum contract extension as soon as this weekend, league sources told ESPN. The Suns presented the offer to Booker in Los Angeles on Tuesday, sources said.

Both sides plan to finalize the agreement shortly after the conclusion of the moratorium on Friday, league sources said.

Booker, 21, has rapidly developed into the Suns’ cornerstone star and the franchise’s hope to lead it out of the lottery and back to the NBA playoffs.

Booker averaged 24.9 points and 22.1 points in his second and third NBA seasons for the Suns. He has been general manager Ryan McDonough’s most decorated draft pick in Phoenix, a freshman out of Kentucky who dropped to No. 13 in the 2015 NBA draft.

Phoenix surrounded Booker with three lottery picks in the past two drafts, including this year’s No. 1 overall pick, center Deandre Ayton, No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges and 2017 No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson.

Matt Klentak, Phillies will be buyers at trade deadline for the first time in his tenure

Say this for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak: He’s ready to buy.

But at what cost?

Klentak always figured he’d be able to draw more definitive conclusions about his young team after a stretch of 42 consecutive games against clubs that are or were expected to be playoff contenders. The Phillies went 21-21 in those games, including five wins in seven games against the Washington Nationals. And with 20 of the next 23 games against teams with losing records, it’s unlikely the Phillies will fade away in the division or wild-card races, especially if they get help from their GM.

“There’s a few areas on our club that we can upgrade,” Klentak said Tuesday, exactly four weeks before the trade deadline.

Because the Baltimore Orioles were in town for the opener of an interleague series, Manny Machado was on everyone’s mind. The Phillies covet Machado, according to multiple sources, and would move mountains to trade for the star shortstop this month if only they could convince him to sign a long-term extension. But that’s highly unlikely considering Machado is only a few months away from free agency and a possible $400 million contract. Regardless of whether the Phillies trade for Machado, they remain a leading candidate to sign him in the offseason.

And while Klentak reiterated that the Phillies are open to trading for a two-month rent-a-player, it’s hard to imagine they would give up 19-year-old righthander Sixto Sanchez or any other elite-level prospect from their loaded farm system for a short-term gain.

“The challenge that we have right now is, we’re at a point where the player-development is intersecting with contention, and we have to understand how we got here and why we got here,” Klentak said. “It’s because of our young players developing, not only in the minor leagues but at the major-league level, and that’s what’s putting us in this position. We have to respect that.

>>READ MORE: Shane Victorino to officially retire with Phillies next month

“Now, at the same time, if there are opportunities for us to upgrade the team in the short-term or long-term via trade, we have to explore those, too. We’re going to pursue a lot of different avenues.”

Indeed, there are other ways for the Phillies to add power to the middle of the lineup, particularly at third base. Mike Moustakas and Adrian Beltre, free agents at season’s end, will be shopped by the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, respectively. Neither will fetch the prospect return that the Orioles are seeking for Machado.

The Phillies also could upgrade the bullpen. And given their connections to Rangers starter Cole Hamels and the Toronto Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ, they will be continued to be linked to both lefties, too, before July 31.

Klentak said he has gotten “a lot of phone calls, a lot of texts” from other teams. The conversations will only increase. With all five playoff spots in the American League all but locked up already, there won’t be any shortage of sellers. Supply figures to outweigh demand, which should work in the Phillies’ favor as they try to make a deal.

“Any trade we’re going to make is going to cost us some talent. We understand that,” Klentak said. “But we are hopeful that we are just now opening a contention window that’s going to last for a long time. Our goal is not to peak one year and then fade the next. Our goal is to open up a window and be good for a long, long time, so we just have to make sure that whatever trades we’re contemplating are appropriately balancing now with the future.”


Wild offseason shifts balance of power in NHL

Updated 58 minutes ago

Several signings and a big trade drastically shifted the balance of power across the NHL in a matter of days.

With John Tavares going home to Toronto, Paul Stastny leaving Winnipeg for Vegas, St. Louis signing three free agents and trading for Ryan O’Reilly, the landscape of the league has changed. The Washington Capitals are bringing back a vast majority of their team, the Western Conference is loaded and yet the Maple Leafs appear to be Stanley Cup favorites after adding Tavares.

“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said. “And I think it’s obvious to say that Toronto is a better team today with that acquisition.”

Tavares’ decision to leave the New York Islanders knocks them out of contender status and puts a whole lot of pressure on coach Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs to make a deep playoff run. Losing out on Tavares despite reportedly offering more money than the Maple Leafs’ $77 million over 11 years kept the Sharks from moving into front-runner status in the West, but they might not be done.

“We pride ourselves on being able to take a swing on difference-makers like this,” San Jose GM Doug Wilson said. “John was the one that we wanted to swing at.”

The Sharks, who extended Logan Couture and re-signed Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl to keep their core together, have plenty of tradable assets and will keep swinging for a difference-maker. One is off the market following the Blues’ trade for O’Reilly that gives them a potent 1-2-3 punch down the middle with Brayden Schenn and free agent signing Tyler Bozak.

O’Reilly saw the Blues sign Bozak to a $15 million, three-year contract and wondered if there wasn’t room for him anymore. Now they have centers to match up with just about any opponent in the league.

“You look at all the teams that have success, they definitely have guys down the middle that compete,” O’Reilly said Monday. “And I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

The Capitals boasted depth with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller during their Cup run, and Babcock can roll out Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. Vegas lost talent on the wing with David Perron going to St. Louis and James Neal signing with Calgary but has a very competitive center corps led by Stastny, William Karlsson and Erik Haula.

“We do like having centers,” Golden Knights GM George McPhee said. “You can move centers around the lineup. You can have centers on the wing. You can’t get wingers to play center.”

Here’s a look at where a few more teams stand early in the preparations for the 2018-19 season:

Got what they need

Lightning: Signing Tavares would’ve been a luxury and might’ve necessitated a roster makeover to fit him under the salary cap. Tampa Bay signed restricted free agent forward J.T. Miller to a long-term deal, extended defenseman Ryan McDonagh, got a deal done with Slater Koekkoek and should have much of the same team that won the Atlantic Division last season.

Flames: Inking Neal to a $28.75 million, five-year contract would be a nice capper to the Flames’ offseason that began with acquiring center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin from Carolina. New coach Bill Peters could put Neal or Lindholm on right wing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

GM Brad Treliving’s final tasks this offseason are to find a backup goaltender to Mike Smith and sign restricted free agents Lindholm and Hanifin to new contracts.

Kings: Long-term, signing franchise defenseman Drew Doughty to an $88 million, eight-year extension is the most important thing Los Angeles did. In the shorter term, it also won the competition for returning Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who GM Rob Blake believes can play with either top-six center, Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter, and produce at age 35.

“That scoring-type winger was something that we needed to add,” Blake said. “Where he plays on the power play and the way he scores goals with his shot I think is something we’ve coveted or looked for.”

Work left to do

Senators: They traded Mike Hoffman, bought out Alexandre Burrows but still have at least one big problem with the future of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson. The Senators have reportedly given Karlsson’s camp permission to speak with other teams about a contract, which would open the door to Ottawa trading its captain rather than losing him for nothing like the Islanders did when Tavares wouldn’t sign early.

“We start Oct. 4,” GM Pierre Dorion said Sunday in Ottawa. “We’ve got lots of time.”

Oilers: Connor McDavid won the scoring title and the Ted Lindsay award as the players’ choice for most outstanding player, but Edmonton missed the playoffs by 17 points. GM Peter Chiarelli publicly dangled the 10th pick in the draft to try to get an offensive defenseman and hasn’t been able to acquire one yet.

Meanwhile, left wing Milan Lucic is 30, coming off a 34-point dud of a season and still has five years left on his contract at a $6 million annual cap hit. Lucic’s name has come up in trade talks, but moving him won’t be easy, so the Oilers have to prepare for life with him next season.

“He’s a proud guy, and we expect to have him back and at a better level than he was last year,” Chiarelli said. “My confidence level is pretty high. I think Milan’s a high-character individual.”

Islanders: Without Tavares, New York is chock full of cap space with nothing to do with it. Ownership signaled the need for change by hiring Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations, and he in turn fired Garth Snow and Doug Weight, hired Barry Trotz and put on a full neutral-zone trap to keep Tavares.

After striking out, Lamoriello took what could be perceived as a shot at Tavares and the previous regime by saying, “John has achieved great individual success on the ice” with the Islanders, who missed the playoffs in six of Tavares’ nine seasons. Without a Lamoriello miracle this offseason, they’ll miss the playoffs for the 12th time in 15 years.

Report: Jeff Green signs 1-year deal with Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jeff Green drives against the Indiana Pacers in the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Forward Jeff Green is signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal to join the Washington Wizards, according to ESPN.

Green spent last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and averaged 10.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in the regular season. During the playoffs, he averaged nearly 8 points in 22 games.

The Cheverly, Maryland native played basketball at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, and was a star at Georgetown for three years.

The former Big East Player of the Year was selected in the first-round by the Boston Celtics in 2007.

Green adds depth and a veteran presence to a Wizards team that recently acquired guard Austin Rivers from the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Wizards traded center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers for Rivers.

During his 10-year career, Green has played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Clippers, and Cavs.

Gareth Southgate: England earned ‘belief for generations’ by breaking hoodoo

After England’s first shootout win since 1996, the FC crew delve into all the facets of their win over Colombia and what they need to improve on.

Andrew Kabuura and Daniel Amokachi break down Colombia’s late goal and England’s quality response.

England are able to overcome past struggles to win a shootout, which gives great confidence should penalties occur later in the tournament.

ESPN’s Charlie Gibson queries fans about England’s World Cup chances while colleague Chris Mendes takes in all the action at Flat Iron Square in London.

England overcome their historic struggles in shootouts and advance on penalties over Colombia, while Sweden do enough to beat Switzerland.

England fans erupted at Flat Iron Square in London as England prevailed over Colombia on penalty kicks to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals.

England manager Gareth Southgate said their shootout victory over Colombia at the World Cup on Tuesday will give the team “belief for generations to follow.”

Pegged back late by a Colombia equaliser, England were forced to settle the game from the spot, where they had lost in all three of their previous attempts at the World Cup and six of seven in major tournaments.

And Southgate, who missed the decisive penalty against Germany that saw England eliminated in the Euro 96 semifinals, said the result in Moscow was a turning point for the Three Lions — and the country.

“We have fantastic supporters who have had to stand with us through decades of disappointment and this was a really special moment for our country,” Southgate said. “Today will give belief for generations to follow and not be hindered by history or expectations.

“The players have really executed everything [in the shootout] that we’ve talked about exceptionally well and we showed incredible resilience to come back from huge disappointment at the final whistle and keep our calm. It’s a special moment for us.”

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford spoke of researching Colombia’s penalty tendencies, and Southgate credited the 24-year-old and his staff for seeing them through.

“They are tough,” Southgate told ITV about shootouts. “We talked long and hard about owning the process, and they kept calm — great credit to all our staff and the players who’ve taken everything on board, and we got our reward today.

“We looked at individual technique, we looked at how we needed to be as a team. The goalkeeper’s very important in that.”

And though his counterpart Jose Pekerman accused England players of faking fouls, Southgate praised his team for largely avoiding reactions to a feisty game that saw 36 fouls and Colombia booked six times to England’s two.

“We are getting smarter, and maybe played by the same rules as the rest of the world,” Southgate said. “But we kept our dignity and our sportsmanship and if we were down it was because we were fouled. I am proud of the discipline.”

Southgate also said he was not surprised by the physical approach from the South Americans.

“I don’t know if I ‘didn’t expect it’ but we didn’t rise to it, which was brilliant,” he told ITV. “A couple of times we lost our cool a little bit but generally speaking we kept our nerve.”

Next up is a quarterfinal clash against Sweden, and Southgate vowed to keep marching forward for the fans who made the trip to Russia.

“Our fans that were here were brilliant but it was almost an away game, so to deal with all of that was exceptional,” he said. “It’s something the players can always look back on now and draw on as an experience.

“We’ve talked about creating their own stories and creating their own history and we’ve done a little bit of that tonight. We go to a quarterfinal, but I don’t want to go home yet.”

If only the Clippers did not have to worry about the Lakers’ greatness again

Rajon Rondo drives past the Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala.

Rajon Rondo drives past the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala. (Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Lakers renounced their rights to Julius Randle on Monday, clearing $12.5 million worth of salary cap space, according to sources who weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Randle will immediately become an unrestricted free agent.

Moments later, they agreed to a one-year deal worth $9 million to sign Rajon Rondo, a veteran point guard most recently with the Celtics, according to sources who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Randle, a 23-year-old Dallas native spent, four seasons with the Lakers after being drafted seventh overall in 2014. Although the Lakers publicly said they wanted to keep Randle, they never engaged in negotiations with the power forward’s representatives or gave them any true indication of their interest in Randle.

David Fizdale: Knicks will make ‘big moves’ next summer to surround Kristaps Porzingis with stars

“We knew coming into this July there wasn’t a lot of money to spend, we wanted to be real strategic with who went we after and if it fit the kind of guys we wanted to have here,” Fizdale said. “I felt like we’ve done that and now we can just lock in, get into the group we have, start developing these guys, growing these guys, let them go through the ups and downs. And as we get our culture in place, KP gets healthy, we start moving into next summer, I really feel like we’ll have the bricks in place to make some big moves.”

NBA free agency rumors: Devin Booker, Suns working toward five-year, $158 million max extension

You may not have noticed because he’s played on awful Phoenix Suns teams since entering the NBA, but Devin Booker is one of the league’s most promising young players. The Suns have noticed, however, and they reportedly want to lock him up for a long time.

Booker, who will be entering his fourth NBA season, is expected to accept the five-year, $158 million max extension that the Suns presented on Tuesday, possibly as soon as this weekend, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Just 21 years old, Booker averaged career-highs in points (24.9), assists (4.7) and rebounds (4.5) last season while shooting 38 percent from the 3-point arc. He also became the youngest player to score more than 60 points in an NBA game when he dropped 70 on the Celtics as a 20-year-old in 2017.

Booker joins this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Deandre Ayton and last year’s No. 4 overall pick, Josh Jackson, as the young Suns core that hopes to lead the franchise back to the playoffs after failing to break the 25-win plateau in each of the past three seasons.

Comeback Cubs win fifth straight as they wait for vaunted rotation to catch up

Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t hesitate to explain how the Cubs have managed to lead the majors with 25 come-from-behind victories already this season – including all during their current five-game winning streak.

“Everything’s believable,” he said. “We believe in everything right now. Santa Claus is absolutely true.”

Talk about a gift.

“When you get to that point and you get that kind of confidence going, you don’t want to do anything to [St.] nick it,” he said after the Cubs came from behind against the Tigers’ best pitcher to beat Detroit 5-3 in the opener of a two-game series Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Kyle Hendricks labored for five innings Tuesday, still trying to find the pinpoint fastball command that has eluded him this year.

No doubt this Cubs team is a confident, playoff-tested, no-panic group.

They might even believe in the magic of Santa Claus.

“I don’t know anything about Santa Claus,” said Jason Heyward, who doubled home a run during the Cubs’ three-run fifth.

So not everybody’s on the nice list (Heyward slammed his bat and then broke it over his knee after popping up with the bases loaded the previous at-bat).

“I believe in Santa Claus,” said Rizzo, who drove in Heyward to tie the game in the fifth.

That’s what Maddon’s talking about.

“Not because of baseball,” Rizzo added, “I promise you that.”

All right, whatever.

The point is that whether it’s the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or a fat guy in a red suit, they can believe in whatever they want. Or not believe.

As long as they know this: The other side of the comeback coin is the fact that they keep falling behind – 60 times in 83 games.

“That’s just the residue of your starting pitching not being what it normally is,” Maddon said. We’ve given up more runs early from our starters that we didn’t anticipate happening.”

It happened again Tuesday when playoff hero Kyle Hendricks, who’s been “searching” much of the season for his mechanics sweet spot, gave up hits to three of the first four Tigers for a quick 2-0 deficit – then gave up another run in the fourth during a five inning start.

He thinks he’s getting closer, he said. But the battle remains “frustrating” for the 2016 ERA champion.

His is the story of the entire rotation – a backbone of three consecutive National League finalists and a group that has been up and down all season.

The two free agents have been sick (Yu Darvish), hurt (Darvish), walk-prone (Tyler Chatwood) and inefficient (both) since their arrivals. Jose Quintana got off to a slow start, and Hendricks has been inconsistent.

Even during this five-game streak, the starters have given up 18 earned runs in just 25 1/3 innings (6.39) as the collective ERA for the season has crept up to 3.82 – only that good because presumptive All-Star Jon Lester (11-2, 2.25) has been so good.

“We’ve had one guy that’s been carrying it, and the rest of us it’s just been up and down,” Hendricks said of the rotation.

And yet a team that has played into late October the last three years (into November in 2016) largely because of the top-ranked starting rotation in the league those three seasons still has one of the top three records in the National League and is positioned well for a second-half run.

They matched their high-water mark for the season at 13 games over .500 with Tuesday’s win.

“That just shows how good all the other aspects have been,” said Hendricks, citing one of the best bullpens in baseball this season and a surging lineup that leads the National League in hitting, scoring, on-base percentage and OPS.

“It’s a little bit surprising in a way,” he said of the strong position through the rotation adversity. “But as good as all those other parts have been, I think once we can get rolling, that shows how good we can be.”


Jazz working hard to keep roster intact

Utah didn’t let Dante Exum get away.

The Jazz retained their third internal free agent of the summer Tuesday, agreeing to terms with Exum on a three-year extension that will be worth around $33 million. The extension was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the agreement, speaking on condition of anonymity because it remains unsigned.

Exum has been limited to a total of 80 regular-season games over the past three seasons. He averaged 8.1 points and 3.1 assists last season for the Jazz.

The Jazz also signed restricted free agent Raul Neto to a two-year extension.

Those deals come a day after the Jazz and Derrick Favors agreed on a two-year contract.

Neto averaged 4.5 points and 1.8 assists per game last season for Utah.

Evans to the Pacers: Tyreke Evans had plenty of suitors, and decided to sign with Indiana.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations says Evans has agreed to a one-year deal that will be worth $12 million for next season.

Evans is a proven scorer, and expanded his three-point ability last season as well. He spent last season with Memphis, averaging 19.4 points per game.

Evans has averaged 16.5 points in stints with Sacramento, New Orleans and the Grizzlies. He also had meetings with the Warriors and Oklahoma City, among others, before choosing the Pacers.

Green signs with Washington: Jeff Green is heading back to Washington, the city where he played college basketball at Georgetown, joining the Wizards to provide some front-court help.

According to a source, Green agreed to a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum of $2.4 million.

Washington needed to add some big men after trading starting center Marcin Gortat and losing backup power forward Mike Scott to free agency.

The Wizards play in the same arena in which Green played most of his home games while with the Hoyas, whom he led to the Final Four in 2007.

Green, who turns 32 in August, spent last season with the Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers. He has played 10 NBA seasons with six teams, averaging 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.

Rockets add help for Harden: Michael Carter-Williams is on the move again, this time to Houston to add some backcourt depth behind MVP James Harden and Chris Paul. It’s believed to be a one-year deal.

Houston will become Carter-Williams’ fifth team in six seasons. He was a backup in Charlotte last season, averaging 4.6 points per game.

He was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year for Philadelphia in 2013-14 when he averaged 16.7 points per game. His scoring average has dropped each season since then.

No change for Bradley: Avery Bradley is staying with the Clippers.

Bradley has agreed to sign a two-year contract with Los Angeles after free agents can begin making deals official Friday.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the agreement, said the contract will be worth $25 million.

Bradley played in 46 games last season between the Pistons and the Clippers. He was traded to the Clippers in January as part of the Blake Griffin deal, then made only six appearances with Los Angeles before being shut down with a hernia.

Bradley has averaged 12.3 points in 459 NBA games.